OK, so the headline’s a touch optimistic. Sadly we are all going to die some day, believers and non-believers alike. But, if you have the right kind of beliefs about god, you might at least be able to persuade yourself that you’re not going to die.
And those beliefs are? Fatalistic ones. In a survey of some 300 elderly Philadelphians, Laraine Winter and colleagues found that a high level of deference to God’s will were linked to preferences for heroic medical interventions in hopeless cases.
So, for example, people who believe that God is their guide and mentor were more likely to say they would like medical intervention if they had a stroke or were in a coma with no chance of recovery, or were suffering from painful liver cancer.
Now, there was some similar research last year, but what this new study adds is the confirmation that it’s deference to God’s will that is the important factor. These people believe that their God will save them from death by some miracle.
And as was pointed out last year, this can cause some problems – one of which is a lack of planning for your death. I’ve dug up some more interesting research which sheds some more light on what is going on here.
This research (from Amy Al and colleagues at Washington University) found that people who report experiencing “religious reverence” are, as you might expect given the above, less likely to make plans for settling their affairs after they die.
However, people who had experienced reverence in a naturalistic setting (feeling reverent in the presence of nature, or enjoying music or art) were more likely to plan for their deaths.
In other words, seeing beauty in the here and now allows you to be more acceptant of your inevitable death. Seeing beauty in god obstructs that.
Winter L, Dennis MP, & Parker B (2009). Preferences for life-prolonging medical treatments and deference to the will of god. Journal of religion and health, 48 (4), 418-30 PMID: 19890718
Ai AL, Park CL, & Shearer M (2008). Spiritual and religious involvement relate to end-of-life decision-making in patients undergoing coronary bypass graft surgery. International journal of psychiatry in medicine, 38 (1), 113-32 PMID: 18624023